People love guardian angels. These seraphic characters have captivated the imaginations of men since before the birth of Christ. From the earliest centuries of the Church, angels have appeared in various forms of art. This fascination with celestial creatures continues to this day. There are a host of examples of our angelic intercessors playing important roles in modern books and movies. From symbols of a right-ordered conscience, to flying baseball outfielders, to, arguably, Gandalf himself, angels have played a variety of roles in the modern imagination. In an age with much disdain for that which is not physically calculable, angels have maintained a remarkable place in modernity.
So why are we fascinated by angels? Or even, why do we love angels? Besides the fact that we simply desire to know, we also like to believe that someone is always looking out for us who is more capable than we. We often recognize our inability to control every outcome in our lives. We rely on the assistance of those who do have control. Guardian angels take on this role, both in reality and the modern imagination.
Angels are often seen as the creatures we wish we could be. In an odd way, the adjective “angelic” has come to mean that which is the best of humanity. The kind deed, the sublime piece of art, the holy individual are described in terms that are non-human. However, that which is most in accord with our ends should be considered to be the most human. But, as fallen individuals, we seek to describe the perfect as wholly different from us. Angelic describes that which possesses the most ability or the most virtue. This is how we tend to view angels. They are the virtuous and able creatures who guide and protect us in our weakness. They are the heroes we wish we could be.
The modern imagination is not far off the mark. While they may not help the (undefeated) Dominican Friars softball team track down more fly balls, they do help us in countless ways. Although angels find their own fulfillment in God alone, they do participate in the lives of us here below. God has given to higher creatures the governance of those beneath them. Angels are above us and thus, in some sense, help govern us here below. They are the messengers and intercessors who can act on our behalf in ways that we cannot. When we turn to them, we are reminded of God’s Providence and we are assisted in our need.
In the end, mankind is fascinated by angels because we want them to exist. We love angels because they do what we cannot. We recognize our insufficiency and our need for the help of our angelic intercessors. Thankfully, God has provided for us by giving us guardian angels to always be with us “to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.”
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Rood Angel (Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair in London) (used with permission)